TORONTO - Don Cherry, the colourful and outspoken host of Coach's Corner, says he's sad to see the iconic "Hockey Night in Canada" theme leave CBC.
"I feel bad because I loved it, no doubt about it," Cherry said. "I'd be lying, I wish it hadn't gone."
Cherry was at Woodbine Racetrack on Thursday, serving as the guest drawmaster for the 149th running of the Queen's Plate, which will go Sunday afternoon.
The theme was written in 1968 by Vancouver composer Dolores Claman and has been associated with "Hockey Night in Canada" ever since. But CBC's rights to the song expired following this year's Stanley Cup final and it failed to reach a new agreement with Copyright Music and Visuals, the company that controls those rights.
Rival network CTV is said to have offered more for the rights, reportedly purchasing them for more than $1 million. The network has not revealed a precise figure.
CTV plans to use the song on its NHL broadcasts on TSN and RDS, as well as during the network's coverage of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
"This is my opinion only," Cherry said. "She (Claman) made a lot of money off 'Hockey Night in Canada' like I made a lot of money on 'Hockey Night in Canada' and the song would be nothing without 'Hockey Night in Canada' and I'd be nothing without 'Hockey Night in Canada.'
"So I thought a little loyalty would come along but that's the way life is, I guess."
John Ciccone, the president of Copyright Music and Visuals, said his client was more than loyal to the CBC.
"The bottom line is that the CBC dropped the song and ran a contest to find a new theme. So I'm not sure what Mr. Cherry is expecting the composer to do after that," Ciccone said.
"We've been loyal for years, thought we were part of a family, but clearly we weren't," he added. "We stayed loyal to the song, so that it could remain in Canada."
Fifty-six per cent of Canadians surveyed in a Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll said the CBC was right not to have offered more than $1 million for the theme.
"That's good CTV picked it up and it's still in hockey," Cherry said. "I'm not going to say everyone will be thinking of 'Hockey Night in Canada' when they hear it, but I'm glad it's still in hockey."
CBC is holding a $100,000 contest to find a new theme for their weekly hockey broadcast. Tom Connors Jr., who manages the career of his guitar-toting singer-songwriter father, Stompin' Tom Connors, has suggested licensing the cowboy-booted performer's "The Hockey Song" to the public broadcaster.
Cherry gave that idea the thumbs up but also suggested CBC use "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," a song written by veteran Canadian rocker Randy Bachman.
"That's the one I'd like to see," Cherry said. "I love Randy.
"I'm sad that it (HNIC theme) is gone . . . but, hey, they still got me. What else do they want?"
Predictably, Cherry had plenty to say about the Toronto Maple Leafs looking to shuffle their roster and possibly buy out such veterans as defenceman Bryan McCabe and forward Darcy Tucker.
"OK, so maybe he (McCabe) shouldn't be making the money he's making but where are you going to get another guy like that," Cherry said. "Get rid of some guys but don't get rid of the heart and soul because somebody says get rid of Darcy.
"So he had one bad year. Now you're going to get rid of him?It's ridiculous."
Cherry was equally critical of former NHL star Doug Gilmour being bypassed for the third straight year for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"That's ridiculous," Cherry said. "I'm not knocking the guys who were in there now but they couldn't carry his jockstrap."
And finally, Cherry said there's no doubt in his mind that Brian Burke will be the next full-time general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Burke is currently the Anaheim Ducks GM but is in the final year of his contract with the NHL team.
The Leafs have certainly looked like a team trying to entice Burke by hiring new head coach Ron Wilson - he and Burke attended university together - and player-personnel director Al Coates, a long-time Ducks front-office employee.
"Oh yeah, no doubt about it," Cherry said about the chances of Burke coming to Toronto. "Of course, he's coming.
"Wait till next year, naturally, but it's obvious he's coming."